Can We Talk?
By Jack Fairweather
Just two days until Christmas 2010.
You can tell.
The sellers are playing Xmas music nonstop, the buyers (obedient consumers that they are) arise in the wee small hours to rush in order to hand over their dwindling cash supply for “bargains,” many of them are suffering from seasonal depression brought on by higher and higher prices, the knowledge that many of their neighbors faithfully follow the schedule of food pantries and semi-truck delivery of free food and the constant media barrage that tells them on one channel we’re all doomed and another that everything is improving and that next year will be better. Well, now, the preceding comments are cynical, aren’t they? Yes, they are. Sorry about that.
At this season, too, Christian ministers and pastors are attempting to come up with homilies (sermons) with which to assure their congregations of the truth of the basic Christmas message: Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary in the little town of Bethlehem, and that birth brought into the world a message of love and forgiveness.
Of course, we know very little of the actual birth of Jesus. There are two stories in the Bible. The New Testament books of Luke and Matthew have slightly different versions. Other accounts in the biblical canon speak of Jesus as an adult. People of faith, whether they view the Bible as the inerrant word of God or as history will continue to believe in the Christ and the message he brings. The central message, which resounds through the New Testament, is one of love for humanity; love from the Creator and love for neighbor and the stranger. That message was, apparently, known or sensed by the “magi,” the men from the East who were over-whelmed with joy, when they saw in the place a star that led them to the baby and Mary. They knelt down and paid him homage.
A great many people, individuals and groups, are concerned to pay extra attention to others during this season, giving gifts of clothing, food, money (if they have it this year) and demonstrating their opposition to systems of domination and oppression. In Ireland, citizens are taking two ambulances, a mini-bus, and a truck filled with 10 tons of humanitarian aid over 4,000 miles to Gaza in Palestine. Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheal Martin has described Gaza as an “open prison”. Other Irish citizens are flying to Cairo, Egypt, to meet up with the Irish convoy participants. On Dec. 27 they will attempt to enter Gaza and join Gazans and other International participants on the “Gaza Freedom March”. Bowing to pressure from Israel, Egyptian officials have already indicated the crossing may be blocked. However, the message of such an outpouring of concern over the situation in Palestine indicates the message of Jesus is alive and well, especially among the common people.
What else can be said about the birth celebrated at Christmas time? St. John Chrysostom, in the 4th century said in his Christmas homily, “What shall I say? And how shall I describe this birth to you? The Eternal One has become an infant…he now lies in a manger. For this He assumed my body, that I may become capable of His word, taking my form He gives me His spirit, and so, He bestowing and I receiving, He prepares me for the treasure of Life. He takes my form to sanctify me. He gives me His love that he may save me.”
As a Catholic Christian, I can’t think of much more to say.
Have a blessed Christmas.